Turner, James West

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    Alternative Pasts: Reconstructing Proto-Oceanic Kinship
    (University of Pittsburgh, 2007) Turner, James West
    Allen has outlined a world-historical theory of kinship in which the earliest kinship systems are assumed to have been tetradic. Such a system is defined by alternate generation, prescriptive, and classificatory equations and is characterized by bilateral cross cousin marriage. Over time these three types of genealogical equations have tended to breakdown in exactly this order. That is, generational equations tend to be the first to breakdown. While supporting some aspects of Allen’s analysis, Hage has argued that the Dravidian systems of Oceania, such as those found in Fiji, challenge the assumption of this directionality in the transformation of kinship systems. Hage’s argument was based on the assumption that Proto-Oceanic kinship reflected a rule of prescriptive asymmetric alliance, an interpretation based on Blust’s linguistic reconstructions. This article examines a Dravidian system from Fiji and questions whether it is derived from an asymmetric ancestral system. It also provides an alternative view of Proto-Oceanic kinship and its regional transformations. (Kinship transformations, Dravidian kinship terminologies, Fiji, comparative Austronesian studies)
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    Continuity and Constraint: Reconstructing the Concept of Tradition from a Pacific Perspective
    (University of Hawai'i Press - Center for Pacific Islands Studies, 1997) Turner, James West
    In the postmodern world, tradition and identity are supplanting modernist political ideologies in the discourse about conflict. Historians and anthropologists who write about tradition necessarily enter the political arena within which the content and meaning of tradition are contested. In the 1980s, social scientists became sensitive to this issue. During that decade the most important contributions to the study of tradition focused on the issue of invention, the fashioning of representations of the past to meet the needs of the present. The invention-of-tradition literature made a useful contribution by linking tradition to such issues as the reproduction of social forms, the interaction of culture and history to produce change, and the role of human agency in both of these processes. Ultimately, however, the emphasis on the malleability of tradition negates what is ostensively affirmed in this literature—that a people’s traditions are a product of their historically situated action. Too little attention is paid to the ways in which interpretations of the past are constrained (and explained) by a determinate past and to the threads of continuity that link the present to that past. In part, the continuity that characterizes tradition is a consequence of the fact that traditions are enacted or embodied. These issues are explored, in part, through a discussion of the Fiji coups and their aftermath.
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    Time Traces: Cultural Memory and World War II in Pohnpei
    (University of Hawai'i Press - Center for Pacific Islands Studies, 2002) Turner, James West ; Falgout, Suzanne
    While conducting fieldwork in Pohnpei, Micronesia, in the 1980s and 1990s, Suzanne Falgout heard poignant accounts of the Islanders’ experiences during World War II. The stories and songs that she recorded reveal that for Pohnpeians the effects of the war were local and personal—a catastrophe visited on a landscape that they know in intimate terms. In this paper we discuss not only the content of these memories but also the broader role of memory in human culture. First, we critique common understandings of memory. We highlight the ability of memory to transcend time, the diversity of forms that memory can take, and the active role of humans as agents in the process of remembering. Next, we examine the similarities and diff e rences between personal and cultural memory and the p rocesses of transformation from individual experience to collective identity. F i n a l l y, we discuss the nature of Pohnpeian experiences in World War II and what has made them such enduring and compelling cultural memories sixty years after the war. We relate these wartime memories to traditional Pohnpeian understandings of historical knowledge and to the genres, tropes, characters, concerns, and contexts used by Pohnpeians to remember and to articulate the past. We also examine the changing nature and use of war memories as a strategic resource in the context of contemporary Micronesia.